Address of Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit at the Award Ceremony of the Dongbaek Medal of the Order of Civil Merit of the Republic of Korea, at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Oslo, Norway, 5 May 2020.


Your Excellency, Ambassador Nam Young-sook,

Acting Presiding Bishop, Atle Sommerfeldt,

Your Excellency, Ambassador Svein Sæther,

Ladies and Gentlemen!


I am deeply honoured by the decision of the president of the Republic of Korea, Moon Jae-in, and of the prime minister, Chung Sye-kyun, for granting this high honour of The Order of Civil Merit, the Dongbaeg Medal, to me. I receive it with a humble and grateful heart as a recognition of the work of many colleagues and the commitment of the World Council of Churches over many years to promote the churches’ contribution to peace for the Korean Peninsula and Korean people.

To make peace is holy work. To make peace is hard work. It is a call to every human being, and particularly to those who have the responsibility to lead their nations. The churches and their leaders have a call from the God of life; to be the voice of the peoples who need just peace, to take new initiatives for peace, and to support those who have the power to make decisions for peace.

Together with my colleagues in the WCC, I have already received the unique gift of trust from the churches and the people of Korea to support their longing and prayers for peace. I have had the unique privilege to be involved in and lead this work in my period as general secretary of the WCC, in close cooperation with the Korean Christian Fellowship (KCF) in the DPRK and the National Council of Churches (NCCK) in the Republic of Korea, together with our member churches and many ecumenical partners in different parts of the world.

The people of Korea need peace and deserve peace. You have been living without a valid peace agreement between North and South. This year, 2020, marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean war. It is time to end the Korean war, and declare the replacement of the Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty. It is possible. This has been my conviction since my first visit to the Korean peninsula, both to Seoul and to Pyongyang. The 10th Assembly of the WCC in Busan in 2013, gave us a very strong mandate to continue and renew the work for peace in Korea. The statement from 2013 I prepared in consultations both in the North and in the South. Together we have met several times as pilgrims for justice and peace.

The new initiatives over the past few years, such as face-to-face meetings by President Moon and his colleagues in DPRK and the USA brought new hope. We know that this process of building peace needs time, skills, resilience, courage and strength. It is our duty and privileged possibility to support such efforts through our visions, our programs, our visits and dialogue, and through our prayers. The WCC, together with the Korean partners, has launched the global prayer campaign for peace and reunification of the Korean Peninsula. This unites us as we long for peace in Korea and the whole world. This is a sign of our deepest commitments and our highest hopes, and prayers from our hearts.

Hope is to see and believe what is not seen yet. The hope changes our minds and our actions, because we act and work according to our defined hope. This is more than optimism, it is a powerful and demanding approach to life.

May this honour given inspire us all to continue to do what is needed and what is possible: To bring the people of Korea together in peaceful relationships, to support disarmament and the international cooperation for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula as part of a nuclear-free world, to keep the vision for the people to meet, to live and to love – together.

May, the God of life and peace, bless the people of Korea, in the South and the North, and give you peace. Amen.